• Matt Harrison returned from the disabled list to post a strong start on Thursday evening in Corpus Christi. The left-hander, who was on a relatively strict pitch count of 75, was limited to just 4.1 innings. He allowed one run on three hits, walking none and striking out two.
Harrison's previous start, which came on April 20, was also in Corpus Christi. During that outing, the hurler felt some tightness in his arm, which led to his two-week DL stint.
"I had some shoulder tightness last time I was here when I made that start," said Harrison. "My velocity dropped about seven miles per hour. They wanted to make sure nothing was wrong so I took a couple weeks off and came back."
After sitting in the 86-88 mph range in his last start, Harrison came out firing his fastball between 91-94 mph in the first inning on Thursday. The 94 mph fastballs registered on two different guns five times in the game's first two innings. Not surprisingly, Harrison felt good early on.
"I felt good," replied Harrison. "I felt great the first three innings and then after that long inning, that third inning, I got kind of stiff again. But that's just because of the long inning. Other than that, I felt great."
As Harrison's shoulder began to tighten up, his fastball velocity fell into the 88-90 mph range during the fourth and fifth innings.
Harrison entered the 2007 season throwing a curveball as his only breaking pitch. But because he had traditionally struggled against left-handed hitters, Harrison added a slider, which has helped him before more effective against his fellow lefties. Harrison was faced with a unique situation on Thursday, as the Hooks lineup featured no left-handed hitters.
"I have never faced [a lineup with no lefties]," Harrison said. "There's always either one or two, but I have never faced a no-lefty lineup before."
Because there were no lefties in the lineup, Harrison was forced to use his slider sparingly.
"I threw a couple of sliders," he said. "They fouled both those off. Basically I was trying to stay away and then I would come up and in on them."
Although Harrison did not walk a batter, his command was less-than-perfect, especially early in the start. Harrison threw 70 pitches in 4.1 innings, including 41 pitches in the first two frames. The lefty did a better job of spotting his fastball when it sat in the 90-92 mph range.
In all, the start had to be considered a positive sign for Harrison, as his fastball velocity was back to its reported level when he cruised through the Arizona Fall League.
|Ramirez collected three more hits. b>|
Although the entire team was involved in the hit parade, it was catcher Max Ramirez leading the way yet again. Ramirez, who leads the Texas League in on-base percentage (.480) and slugging percentage (.722), was 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, and a home run. Ramirez's eighth inning homer helped stop a string of six consecutive Corpus Christi runs.
"It was a 2-2 count and I was looking for a pitch in the strike zone," said Ramirez of the home run at-bat. "He had thrown two breaking balls before the fastball. The fastball was up and I just hit it well."
The 23-year-old is in his first year of Double-A ball, but he has looked more like a big league veteran at the plate this season. Ramirez credits his work against offspeed pitches for his early success.
"We're working with the soft stuff and staying back," he said. "In this league, [pitchers] have good control of their slider, curveball, and changeup. You have to stay back and use the hands."
• Young shortstop Elvis Andrus continued to heat up, as he extended his hitting streak to eight games. Andrus was 2-for-5 with a pair of singles, one of which was a line drive that one-hopped the 375 sign in right-center field. The 19-year-old was held to just one base when Craig Gentry, who was at first, failed to read the ball off the bat.
Andrus also made his usual outstanding defensive play, which seems to occur at least once per game. Leading off the bottom of the fourth inning, speedy Hooks shortstop Wladimir Sutil hit a ground ball right to the bag at second base. Andrus was able to range to his left and cut the ball off in front of the bag before making a strong throw to nail Sutil by a two steps.
• Perhaps the game's lone disappointing note came from first baseman Chris Davis. Although Davis was able to turn on an inside fastball for a base hit, he struggled at the plate. Davis, who has been a bit inconsistent in his approach this season, was swinging early and often on Thursday. Davis offered at a handful of balls in the dirt over the course of the game.
The 22-year-old has shown the ability to work the count at times, but he also has a tendency to revert into old habits by swinging at balls out of the strike zone.
• The 7-8-9 hitters in the order – Steve Murphy, Emerson Frostad, and Corey Ragsdale – all singled and doubled in the game. But the trio isn't your average bottom of the order: they have combined to hit .310 this season.
• Reliever Brennan Garr returned from the disabled list and posted a scoreless inning, coaxing three infield popups. The right-hander threw his fastball between 91-93 mph and needed just 11 pitches to complete the frame. Garr threw one 81 mph slider, an outstanding pitch that broke across the outer half of the plate.
After spending just over three weeks on the disabled list for a minor shoulder impingement, Garr feels the injury is a thing of the past.
"I felt real good," said Garr of his arm. "We just kind of increased stretching – more intense and more often. It is making my arm feel a lot better. Probably the best it has felt in a long time."
Even though he was on the disabled list, Garr threw regular bullpen sessions after taking a short rest.
"I started playing catch again after four or five days," he said. "Then I threw three or four bullpens. I was making sure my arm was feeling better and seeing how it felt the next day during the early bullpens. The last couple of bullpens, we were making sure my arm was ok but also making sure my mechanics were good."
|Laughter is one of the system's top relief prospects. b>|
"I was a little nervous out there," admitted Laughter. "I was calm and confident, but at the same time, it was a different league, different team, and a different kind of atmosphere. I had not thrown in front of that many people in awhile. It will take a little bit to get accustomed to but I think I'll be alright."
Warner Madrigal's recent promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma has left a hole at the back end of the Frisco bullpen. Although Laughter was Bakersfield's closer and he worked the ninth inning on Thursday, the righty is not sure what his role will be with his new club.
"I was late-innings down in Bakersfield," said Laughter, "but up here I don't know what they want me to do. They haven't told me anything."
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